Skip to content

Why do we need so many reverbs?

Without any introduction, here’s my current list of reverbs:

And this is a curated list as some others has been moved to unused for some time, but not necessarily permanently.

The question is simple, why do I or anyone else need this amount or even more? The answer is not so simple though. Yes, I know many times we can tweak a certain reverb to sound like some other, we can insert EQ, Dynamics and-or Saturation before or after the verb changing its sound. Automation is another thing that can make real difference as we can automate certain parameters to change the type of reverb or the tail multiple times in a song. Combining different reverbs can take you into even more interesting territories, honestly the possibilities are almost endless even if you only have a few different reverb plugins.

It’s a curse

If you don’t have a vision, multiple choices can easily derail the mix process and you find yourself endlessly searching for the best while loosing perspective. The other possibility is what you liked the first day may hate the next and change again on the third. Of course you might just find the best possible reverb for the material but more often than not it’s just brings you further away from the real solution.

Many times I see some purchase all the famous ones thinking that if all the big names use some of these than they must be good enough for the rest. But this kind of thinking is bad. The biggest names in the industry turns out to be very picky when it comes to reverbs. And for a good reason. They use what really works for them. It doesn’t matter if it cost 50 dollars or 300. If it not suit your taste, you can’t achieve what you want, it doesn’t worth your money. Note that it doesn’t mean that it’s bad. It only means that it’s not for you.

Don’t be a mindless collector. I mean it is so tempting to pull the trigger when you see the deals on forums and other places. It is easier to read some user reviews and believe it’s going to be just fine for you. And as I mentioned, it’s even more tempting to buy instantly when you see someone famous in the advertisement. But the point is until you tried it, until you’ve thoroughly tested and become familiar with its idiosyncrasies, there’s no way it’s going to be a good purchase.

One strange phenomenon can happen if you have too many choices. Many people think that having endless choices makes you creative as you don’t have any boundaries. But in reality it does the opposite. Ever been in a restaurant where the menu is way too long? Your brain suddenly can’t decide as it has too many choices and frankly many seems like a great choice. It’s the same with this. You won’t be more creative, actually you derail you vision while trying to pick the best from an enormous list. At the end you might have the best that really fits the project but you might as well lost the creative spark, the vision not to mention you wasted too much time and don’t have enough left to polish the rest of the mix.

It’s the best thing

On the other hand, owning many different reverb can be the best thing. For example if you know them well, know your favourites for certain things and have at least an idea where to start, then it’s great to have multiple choices. Some think that owning for example multiple plate reverbs is not necessary as they do the very same thing. But make no mistake, even rooms or plates can have quite different qualities. And most of the time it’s not that one is better than the other, it can be substantially different and that can be the recipe for success. Not all plates created equal or the same.

It’s very easy to test this yourself. Just make a test session with a snare and some other instrument samples. They can be short, mono or stereo. The main thing is that you need some reference samples and they need to be dry preferably. Make an aux where you instantiate the first plate you find in the list. Make it sound great on the snare for example. Then bypass that first insert, and do the same with the second one in the list, and do this until you tried all of your different plates. If you happy with all the settings, simply bypass and reactivate the different plates will deliver you amazingly different results. And this is still true even if you try to match them as close as possible. So having multiple choices even from the same type is not necessarily a bad thing.

And don’t deny, there are happy accidents. When you just insert one from the arsenal accidentally and it turns out to be the best choice. The funny thing is, this can happen with the default preset many times. Just throw it in and hear what it does. If the style is great, you might only want to tweak a few settings to get the desired result. Or just quickly change it to another one. While I love to have my own preferences sometimes it’s fun to really just experiment with different choices and surprise yourself.

If you are like me who love to save your own presets and many times have an idea what might work with the particular material you’re working on, then it’s absolutely the best thing to have a bigger arsenal so you have options. The key is to keep balance, it’s great to have preferences and presets, but it’s also vital to sometimes break free of the good old things and go wild without any preconceptions. By the way the wild experiments can lead you to your best ever presets later on.

So how many do we really need? The only thing I can say is: it depends on the person and the job. Probably if you tend to work on mainly similar material, you don’t need more than let’s say 3-5 different ones. But if you work in many different genres or in the film scoring world, you might need more than that. The solution is to forget the marketing materials from companies, forget the once-in-a-lifetime offers, forget what others use. Think about your own work and needs, make thorough tests and choose what really works for you.